Start your day with you

How we start our day is crucial for our mindset and it affects how we make decisions for the rest of the day. These days we are surrounded by so many distractions, and I personally make a conscious effort to limit these in order to focus on myself first. Here you will find five simple steps in the morning to do before anything else. Leave your phone charging in another room overnight, provide the space for yourself and your wellness before everything else.

  • Drink water
  • Stretch, move your body
  • Practice your gratitude
  • Write or journal
  • Set your intentions for the day

Try these simple and effective steps and I promise you will notice a difference.

Aimee x

Follow:

Natural ways to increase melatonin

Melatonin, the natural hormone that plays an important part in our sleep-wake cycle. This hormone gets released into the brain in response to darkness and suppresses when it’s exposed to light.

I love my sleep, anyone who knows me well will know my bedtime is not long after my children’s.
Sometimes though, a good, quality night’s rest requires a little more effort than other days. Here are a few tips to help increase your melatonin naturally:

☾ Step outside. The sooner we expose ourselves to natural sunlight in the day, the earlier our melatonin production will occur in the evening.

☾ Relax and unwind. High levels of our stress hormone (cortisol) impact our melatonin production. Take the time to relax in the evening in preparation for bed. Try a warm bath or shower, meditate, read a book, or whatever it is that makes you feel at ease and relaxed.

☾ Limit screens. I know this is a hard one with so many great shows on Netflix, or having to unavoidably catch up on some work on the laptop, but blue lights from electronics sends signals to our brain shutting down any melatonin release. Try switching the screen off an hour or so beforehand, to give your brain a better chance at falling asleep more easily.

☾ Exercise daily. Exercise is packed with so many health benefits and it helps to decrease cortisol too. Studies have proven that the hormones we release whilst exercising (particularly in the morning) support our melatonin production in the evening.

☾ Limit caffeine in the afternoon/evening as this suppresses melatonin production and disrupts sleep throughout the night. Try some sleep herbal teas instead.

☾ Eat foods high in melatonin. These include tart cherries (tart cherry juice is available from most health stores), goji berries, kiwi fruit, eggs, fatty fish, and nuts.

Do you have any other tips to help get a better night’s sleep?

Aimee x

Follow:

Healthy drink swaps

Here are some healthy drink swaps you can try throughout your day.

➪ Fizzy drinks are high in artificial colours and flavours which contribute to high blood pressure, tooth decay and other various health problems. Try swapping these for sparkling water with your favourite fruit sliced and squeezed into it, or try kombucha which is an excellent source of probiotics, and much healthier on your gut.

➪ Most bottled juices contain as much sugar and artificial ingredients as fizzy drinks. Check the label for ingredients and opt for freshly-squeezed or cold-pressed juice, without the added sugars or artificial flavours. The healthiest swap I would recommend is to enjoy a piece of fruit, this provides you with natural vitamins and minerals and will keep you satisfied for longer. 

➪ Energy drinks are extremely high in artificial sugars, flavours, and caffeine. If you have these regularly, try swapping them for coffee and keep it to approximately 2 cups a day. Coffee has far more health benefits and will give you the caffeine hit if that’s what you need. 

➪ Black tea and coffee contain many health benefits (I love my morning coffee), however, drinking excessive amounts every day may cause health problems associated with the caffeine side-effects. Enjoy 2 cups a day and try swapping the rest for herbal teas which are full of antioxidants and vitamins. 

➪ Dairy milk consumption has rapidly declined in recent years for various reasons. Plant-based milk is more environmentally friendly, they are free from hormones and antibiotics, and most of them contain the same amount of vitamins and minerals (including calcium) as dairy milk. If you’re curious about swapping, read the labels, and taste-test each one – there’s plenty to choose from including, oat, cashew, almond, soy, rice, quinoa, and coconut. Oat, almond, and coconut are the top favourites in our home.

And finally, the purest drink of them all is plain, filtered water. A minimum of 2 litres a day will provide you with so many health benefits, and it’s free too!

Can you think of anymore healthy drink swaps? 

Aimee x

Follow:

Healthy fats

These healthy fats, also known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are important for us to have on a daily basis. They are vital in supporting our cell and hormone health, keep us fuller for longer and provide us with a slow release of energy throughout the day.

How much should we have? It is possible to overdo it, so a rough guide would be approximately 20-30% of your daily intake. (This number is flexible depending on your activity level, personal needs, and overall health).

Here is a full list of healthy fats for you to start including in your day:

☀︎︎ Salmon, tuna (and other fatty fish)
☀︎︎ Eggs
☀︎︎ Nuts & seeds (almonds, walnuts, macadamia, and most others. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower, and flaxseeds)
☀︎︎ Soybeans, edamame & tofu
☀︎︎ Avocado
☀︎︎ Olives / extra virgin olive oil
☀︎︎ Coconut
☀︎︎ Dark chocolate (yum!)
☀︎︎ Yoghurt

Most of these foods are high in omega-3 (particularly fatty fish). Did you know our bodies can’t make omega-3 fatty acids by themselves? We need to eat them or take a supplement to obtain the full health benefits.

I love these foods! Eggs, salmon and avocado is my favourite breakfast/brunch meal. So delicious!

Aimee x

Follow:

Turning a vision into a business

Taking a break from our usual career or being on maternity leave and having a baby can often inspire women to follow their dreams and start their own business. Perhaps it is a passion you have always had, a vision you have wanted to follow, or you have found a gap in the market and just decided to go for it. 

Martina and I met 6 years ago in child birthing class in London. Since then, she has become a mother of two and has founded and created her own business NINE+QUARTER Maternity and breastfeeding wear.

Sharing similar experiences of starting our own businesses whilst becoming new Mums, we are excited to share with you some real experiences on how to get started, including the highs and the lows. Here I asked Martina a few questions on how she designed and created her own maternity wear line, and brought it to life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what your inspiration was for starting NINE+QUARTER Maternity?

Hi! I’m Martina, a Mum of two and the founder of NINE+QUARTER maternity and breastfeeding wear. I’m from Sweden, married to an Englishman and 12 years living in the U.K., and presently living in Bermuda thanks to my husband’s job. I am so fortunate to be running NINE+QUARTER from home whilst also enjoying some sunny weather and beautiful beaches after work and on the weekend!

The idea came to me when I was pregnant with my first baby, Emilie, when I was in search for easy-to-rock, organic and on-trend maternity and nursing wear. After my second, Max, was born, having found that maternity wear was still largely plain, dotted, stripy or frumpy, I decided to brave it and do something about the lack of exciting clothing options for pregnant and breastfeeding women. That is when NINE+QUARTER was born! 

Martina is a mum of two and the founder of NINE+QUARTER maternity and breastfeeding wear.
Martina is a mum of two and the founder of NINE+QUARTER maternity and breastfeeding wear.

Is this different to the job you had prior to having kids?

It certainly is. I used to work in food manufacturing, analysing customer purchasing preferences. I have worked for some exciting businesses like Yoplait, General Mills (Haagen-Dazs ice cream amongst other brands), and Burtons Biscuits; a world away from maternity fashion…

You had a wonderful idea to design maternity wear for women who do not want to compromise on their style during pregnancy and after. It was a strong vision of yours, what were the first few steps you took to get it started?

I don’t think you should have to wave good-bye to your style because you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Whilst I have never been one to spend ages choosing an outfit, I want to feel excited about what I’m wearing because my outfit gives me confidence.

My go to style is jeans, trainers and an effortlessly cool t-shirt or sweatshirt. If I want to dress up, I add some jewellery, swap the trainer for black Chelsea or stomper boots, and throw on a leather jacket. In summer I swap the jeans for denim shorts or a skirt and the trainers for Birkenstocks.

When I was pregnant, a lot of the maternity tops on offer left me feeling uninspired and far less excited on the outside than I felt on the inside. That’s where I saw a gap in the market.  

The first thing I did when dreaming up NINE+QUARTER was to look at my favourite brands and designs I wished were available in maternity clothes. The next step was to research what designs are suitable for maternity and breastfeeding wear. Some designs don’t look good when stretched across a growing bump and some shapes don’t combine well with breastfeeding zips.

Being a Mum is a full-time job as it is. Some days, we can feel like we have no steam left! How did you juggle starting NINE+QUARTER Maternity and being a new Mum at the same time?

This is a great question! And such a tricky one to answer as Motherhood is a full-time job! Being a working Mum is an insane balancing act. As a mum boss, I have the freedom of flexibility, which is so precious when you have young children. I can plan my work around naps, nursery & school runs. When I was launching NINE+QUARTER and Max was still a baby, most of the work happened during nap times and in the evenings. In fact, a lot of my work still happens in the evenings. During lockdown I hardly got any work done pre kids’ bedtime and at that point, I just wanted to flop onto the sofa and watch Bridgerton!

So, the honest answer is: I’m juggling as best as I can and I haven’t yet found a happy medium. I often feel like I am either not getting enough work done or I’m not giving the kids enough attention. I’m sure many mums feel the same, but I also feel privileged to be doing something I enjoy, and I’m committed to having NINE+QUARTER in my life because it’s important to me. 

I recently saw this Instagram illustration by @motherher_ which really struck a chord…

The @motherher_ community and podcast offer empowering hints, tips and conversations about motherhood.
The @motherher_ community and podcast offer empowering hints, tips, and conversations about motherhood.

As a role model to my kids I like to think that I am inspiring them to focus on what makes them happy and dare to follow their dreams. Self-care should be a priority, for boys and girls alike, but I especially wish for my daughter to grow into a mother who understands the importance of self-care because it isn’t something I grew up with; it’s something I’m having to teach myself. 

Businesses often take twists and turns in different climates, especially in the last year. Have there been any roadblocks for you along the way? How did you get around them and keep going?

I feel like I face roadblocks all the time…some are larger, scarier and take longer to work through and some are smaller and quicker to work around. I think that’s part of building a business. To date my biggest roadblocks have been finding a factory and a designer that I am happy with, but I’m finally there and super excited to be working with our freelance designer Miriam and our factory in Portugal who are so professional and make the best quality clothes for us.

Working remotely is an ongoing challenge. Being in Bermuda means that I cannot access certain Instagram and facebook functionalities, like tagging products or uploading reels, which the algorithm favours now, and the lack of that is putting me at a disadvantage.

Covid has obviously been hugely challenging for everyone. Real job uncertainty combined with the fact that many are likely to spend less on maternity and breastfeeding wear if they are at home is probably one of the reasons why sales have been slow this year.

The other major roadblock which comes with being a small independent and self-funded start-up is brand awareness. As a small brand with a limited marketing budget, it takes time to make some noise. Turning that around is my key challenge for the next 12-24months.  

I find that the best way to work through challenges is to have a plan of action. Write down WHAT it would look like if you had resolved the issue, then capture multiple ideas for HOW you are going to get there. If you can, prioritise and give each action a timeline. Having little bite-sized actions that you can tick off your to-do list gives you a sense of progress, which in turn helps with motivation. If possible, work simultaneously on a few smaller/easier wins to keep you motivated as well as the real ground-breaking stuff. Don’t forget to think about who you might be able to reach out to for help. 

It must feel pretty satisfying being your own boss. What do you enjoy most about having your own business?

1. The flexibility to manage your time around you and your family.

2. The variety of tasks. From design to production, packaging, hang tags, website, photoshoots, operations, content, marketing, social media, customer service and more, you are involved in everything.

3. That notification that tells me someone has placed an order or sent a positive product review, knowing it is your efforts that are being rewarded. Makes me leap for joy every time!  

It is so important to surround ourselves with inspiring and motivating people who can teach us a thing or two. Did you seek any support when starting your own business, any mentorship, or advice from other business owners, family, or friends?

Absolutely! It can be quite lonely running a small business and some decisions benefit from being discussed. Luckily, there is so much support out there, whether it’s in your personal group of friends and family, online (professional networks as well as social media support groups), other small business owners (many of whom are happy to support another small businesses) or experts who offer paid services in pretty much every area you might be struggling with. I have recently started having calls with a coach to help me focus on long-term progress and perspective. I’ll let you know how that goes. Just know that you don’t have to stand alone though. In fact, I think it’s better if you try not to. 

We love women who empower women. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business, whether it be on the side, or a full career change?

You absolutely can! Here is the best advice I had, from a double business owner and mum of two, when it comes to starting your own business (or just investigating your idea):

1. Take your time and be thorough with your business plan. It is a lot easier to start over on paper than once production is underway.

2. Write down a set of questions: What’s your idea? If it is a product, what do you need to make it? Where can you sell it? What is already out there? How would this be different? etc. As you go along and work on answering your questions, new questions will arise e.g. Where do you find a manufacturer? What are the benefits of building a website from scratch versus subscribing to a platform such as Shopify? This process can take a few months or even a year but if you break down each question into bite-sized tasks, you can slowly work your way forward around baby’s nap times or your daytime job. Once you have exhausted your questions you will know a lot more about your business idea and will be able to make a more informed and confident decision about whether to push on or not.

3. Be brave, stick with your gut and your vision. I’ve made a few mistakes because it was “easier” to proceed (i.e. less uncomfortable, less likely to upset or because changing something would incur additional costs) than to say stop and change. To sell you products or services you must back yourself and in order to do that you have to back your products, so take your time with samples and product development and make sure you’re happy with the products you’re going to be selling.         

What is next to come for NINE+QUARTER Maternity, what are you excited about?

I have so many ideas and new designs that I would like to develop! For the time being my focus is on driving brand awareness. NINE+QUARTER is a small brand and not many expecting and breastfeeding mums know that we exist and offer something more exciting to wear during pregnancy and beyond.

In the future, I hope we can expand our range of multi-purpose maternity and breastfeeding wear. Those are tops or dresses that have been designed with both pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding in mind. I would also love to collaborate with various independent artists and charities to create unique designs that benefit a good cause! On the manufacturing side, I will continue to look for ways to reduce waste in our manufacturing process and minimise plastic packaging. I hope one day to be a fully certified GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) brand.

Behind the scenes of a NINE+QUARTER maternity fashion photo shoot.
Behind the scenes of a NINE+QUARTER maternity fashion photo shoot.

If you are thinking of starting your own business, then we would love to hear from you. We hope you found this inspiring and useful. With a vision, hard work, and believing in what you do, anything is possible.

To follow Martina or to get in touch, visit @nine_and_quarter_maternity and her website www.nine-and-quarter.co.uk

Follow: